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Beijing air: "crazy bad"

The U.S. embassy in Beijing has an air-quality monitoring station that tracks the level of certain pollutants in China's notoriously smoggy capital -- and then broadcasts results via Twitter.  Most tweets from the sober-minded scientists behind @BeijingAir look like this:

11-17-2010; 10:00; PM2.5; 154.0; 204; Very Unhealthy // Ozone; 0.2; 0

But yesterday a new reading was pronounced, one not listed on the US EPA's usual air-quality index:

11-19-2010; 02:00; PM2.5; 562.0; 500; Crazy Bad

A "Crazy bad" day, apparently, is one in which the pollution reading -- a score typically from 1 to 500 reflecting measurements of ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air -- is literally off the charts. That is, it exceeds the EPA's maximum score of 500, the upper bound for a "hazardous" day. The definition of a "hazardous" day is pretty ominous: "Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected." But what's beyond hazardous?

The new category of "crazy bad" will not be formally incorporated into the EPA's index, but will first be renamed, as the embassy later told the Associated Press. Just another record broken in China for which we have yet no name.

Hat tip: @gadyepstein

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Britain's ideal U.N. Security Council

At a speech I had the chance to attend at Georgetown University yesterday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague voiced his support for a "more representative U.N. Security Council." Following the speech, I asked Hague what his ideal council would look like and got a surprisingly specific response:

We favor the inclusion of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan and African representation in an expanded security council. It's a difficult process to bring about of course as it requires a high degree of international consensus. But that's our goal in the United Kingdom. 

The British Foreign Office and Hague's Conservative Party haven't always been so enthusiastic about the idea of an expanded council. 

The speech was largely dedicated to combating the notion that cuts to the British defense and diplomatic budgets will lead to a less assertive British presence in world affairs. "Strong defenses require strong finances," he said. "The decisions we have taken are necessary beyond question and will ensure that Britain will be able to defend all its territories and meet all its commitments, including to NATO's target of 2 percent of gross domestic product spend on defense."

Hague also suggested that there may be some rebalancing ahead for British trade priorities:

For example, we are still exporting more to Ireland than to India, China and Russia put together, and more to Denmark than to the whole of Latin America -- a region of 20 countries and 576 million people.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images